Big Oil's Wartime Bonus: An Update on How It Turns Profits Into Wealth

Explosion in buybacks, dividends continues into Q2 2022 as updated data shows $46B in buyback announcements and $8.3B in special, windfall dividends

Big Oil's Wartime Bonus: How Big Oil Turns WIndfall Profits Into Wealth

As the U.S. House of Representatives prepares to vote on the Consumer Fuel Price Gouging Prevention Act from Reps. Katie Porter (D-Calif) and Kim Schrier (D-Wash.), Big Oil companies continue to generously reward their investors while consumers pay sky-high prices.

New data compiled by Friends of the Earth, BailoutWatch, and Public Citizen shows that the biggest oil and gas companies are returning billions more in cash to themselves and their investors amid windfall profits from war. 

The analysis shows:

  • The top 20 U.S- based oil and gas companies reported $30.3 billion in profits in the first quarter of 2022, an 155% increase from the first quarter of 2021.
  • In the first five months of 2022, eight companies authorized plans to buy back and retire $46 billion in stock — a 116% increase over the $21.2 billion in buybacks authorized throughout all of 2021. 
  • A full $36 billion of those buyback authorizations came since the start of February 2022, as Russian preparations for their eventual invasion of Ukraine sent oil prices skyrocketing.
  • Seven companies are paying extra bonus dividends on top of their routine quarterly payments, including by implementing new variable payouts based on their earnings — a way of guaranteeing to shareholders a large portion of their windfall profits. So far in 2022, these companies have announced $8.3 billion in special windfall dividends.
  • Five of these companies — Pioneer, Chesapeake, Conoco, and Coterra, and Diamondback — announced variable dividends since the start of August 2021, as prices began to rise.

The data updates a prior analysis released in April showing the initial wave of corporate self-enrichment beginning in 2021 as post-COVID demand returned, which then exploded in 2022 as oil prices soared before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“Big Oil is turning humanitarian disaster and consumer pain into Wall Street profits,” said Lukas Ross, Program Manager at Friends of the Earth. “It’s about time that Democrats put price-gouging and war profiteering to a vote.”

“The crisis in Ukraine has laid bare how little these companies care about their impact on the wider world,” said Chris Kuveke, data analyst at BailoutWatch. “The least we can do is impose a modest measure of accountability on this historic money grab.”

“Fossil fuel executives are sending windfall profits to their shareholders and sticking consumers with the bill while accelerating the climate crisis,” said Alan Zibel, a researcher with Public Citizen. “Now is the time, finally, to hold Big Oil accountable.”

For more information on the data, click here.

Communications contacts: Brittany Miller, [email protected], (202) 222-0746
Shravya Jain-Conti, [email protected], (917) 328-6973
Patrick Davis, [email protected], (608) 770-4800